Sundog

(Jeff Janoda.  2019) We at TVC are not particularly interested in the experiences of German pilots stationed in Southern Russia in December 1942, and so we would not have picked up Sundog, had we not known that its author, Canadian Jeff Janoda was also the author of the terrific, Saga A Novel of Medieval Iceland.  Janoda justified our faith. It would have been our loss, had we judged this book by its subject matter. The settings of the two novels could not be more different, but the concise, detailed and historically rich style are the same. Sundog is a truly…

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The Lighthouse (dir. Robert Eggers)

February 10, 2020 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama Film, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(2019: Australian Release February 2020) If, like us at The Varnished Culture, you’ve pictured yourself tending a lighthouse on a breezy, picturesque island away from the rat race; climbing the steps with a dainty lantern; reading by the fire at night while the rain tinkles against the windows, this film will give you something to think about. [And finishing that novel, as in Poe’s unfinished lighthouse story, or else something like an action / adventure / comedy, perhaps called “The Big Heist” – Ed.] We saw The Lighthouse with a theatre full of excited film students who tittered and crackled…

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Marriage Story (dir. Noah Baumbach)

February 10, 2020 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(2019) Baumbach’s second Academy-Award nominated feature begins with a to-camera monologue by Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and then the same from her husband Charlie (Adam Driver), each telling a mediator what they first liked about the other. The close-ups are inter-cut with scenes from the marriage, all undercut by sentimental music which rises to a cloying crescendo whenever we see the couple – either together, or independently- cosseting their over-indulged, bratty son Henry (who, at eight years of age is rewarded with a present each time he ‘poops’). The mediator to whom the couple are talking (Robert Smigel) is helping them…

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A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)

(2016) In 1922, at the age of 33, the urbane Count Rostov is exiled by the People’s Comissariat for Internal Affairs to the Hotel Metropol, Moscow for life upon pain of death.  He is spared immediate execution only because he is known as the author of a poem in praise of the pre-revolutionary cause:- “Alexander Ilyich Rostov, taking into full account your own testimony, we can only assume that the clear-eyed spirit who wrote the poem Where Is It Now? has succumbed irrevocably to the corruptions of his class – and now poses a threat to the very ideals he…

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Auto de Fe (Elias Canetti)(1935 – trans. into English in 1946)

A surreal representation of pre-World War 2 Mitteleuropa (specifically Germany), Nobel Prize winner’s novel Auto de Fé is an intense and disturbing stew of poverty, insanity and brutality.  Dr Peter Kien, who is (at least in his opinion), the world’s greatest Sinologist, leads a strictly structured, hermetic life of study and paper-writing. He subsists on an inheritance, treating offers of professorial chairs with contempt. Although his housekeeper Therese has shown no attention  at all to Kien’s 4-room library  during the eight years she has lived in his apartment – other than in assiduously dusting it, Kien is enchanted when she…

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